On Wednesday, March 18, the Senate approved a House-passed coronavirus relief package bill that includes provisions for free testing for COVID-19 and paid emergency leave. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law the same evening.
The economic relief bill marks the second aid package that has passed in a matter of weeks. It provides paid sick and family leave for some of the U.S. workers impacted by the coronavirus as well as affording workers with up to two weeks of paid sick leave if they are being tested or treated for coronavirus or have been diagnosed. Also eligible are those who have been told by a doctor or government official to stay home because of exposure or symptoms.
Payments will be capped at $511 a day, which is approximately what someone making $133,000 earns annually. Workers with family members affected by coronavirus and those whose children’s schools have closed will receive up to two-thirds of their pay, though that benefit will be limited to $200 a day.
The relief package also expands unemployment assistance and includes nutrition assistance and increases the resources for testing.
This second relief package faced some delays in the Senate earlier this week after passage in the House last Saturday. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urged its passage, stating that Senate members could address their concerns in the next wave of legislation.
Currently, efforts are also underway in Congress to craft a third, and even larger, relief measure that could total $1 trillion.
“This is a time for urgent bipartisan action, and in this case, I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers,” McConnell said ahead of the vote on the second relief package, which passed 90-8 in the Senate.
McConnell then added that he will not adjourn the Senate until it passes what lawmakers are describing as a “phase three” economic stimulus package in response to the coronavirus outbreak.